Msgr. Louis Antonelli
Påle' Luta since 1973
For some time now, Luta (Rota) has had two parishes - San Francisco de Borja, the original in Songsong - and San Isidro, the new one, in Sinapalo.
Various priests have come and gone since Luta opened a second parish.
But, if you ask most people in Luta, there is only one "Påle' Luta," the one who's been there for forty-four years! Monsignor Louis Antonelli. For most of those 44 years, he was the one and only priest on Luta and he got to know everyone on the island, and everyone knew, and knows, him.
Ten years ago, I sat down with him and had a conversation that I made notes of. Here are some things I learned :
~ The first place (outside of Guam) he asked to be assigned to was Alamagan. But the diocese didn't send resident priests to the northern islands. Priests from Saipan would alternate going up to all the inhabited northern islands every three months or so on a government vessel.
~ There was a man in Luta who had been an interpreter in Guam during the war. Apparently he had made some enemies on Guam, and would have been killed if he set foot back on Guam. Antonelli prepared the man for death when his health deteriorated.
~ Antonelli's first experience of Luta was during summers in the 1950s. Since he was a school teacher (at Fr Dueñas), summers were when he could cover a parish while the pastor took a break. In the 1950s, Capuchin Father Cornelius Murphy was pastor of Luta. He lived very poorly. The konbento (rectory) had no electricity yet. Antonelli used a kerosene lamp at night. Father Cornelius also ate very poorly. On one day, Father Cornelius would have spam for lunch and canned corned beef for dinner. The following day he would have canned corned beef for lunch and spam for dinner. Antonelli got sick of canned meats because of this.
Father Cornelius in front of the old konbento in Luta
~ Daily life in Luta in the 1970s. People went to Mass early in the morning then went to their ranches to farm. During the day, no one was at home except the very old. The children were at school and the adults were at their ranches.